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After I emerged victorious from the depression that filled my twenties, I discovered some old friends didn’t care for the new me. This is part of the condition we seldom talk about.
In my early twenties, I had a mental breakdown. A couple of weeks later I had another. The second one was very public, and at the time I actually thought I had lost my mind. Afterwards came the self-imposed solitary confinement, the depression and the anxiety, which seems to always be coupled together in a kind of chaotic combo pack, like an un-happy meal without the toy.
Although everyone experiences depressive symptoms in different ways, I find that there is something largely in common between those who experience something like this; the person either has a massive support network to help them overcome it to an extent, or that person is mostly alone.
It can go both ways, but today we’re going to look at the latter. Now, when I say alone I don’t mean completely alone, but you do tend to feel like a burden on those around you, so you never ask for any kind of help. Thus, none is given.
Now I’m not saying that I expected help, but a little compassion goes a long way.
Depression is a strange thing – crippling and destructive, confining and constricting. One thing that makes it worse – even if you consider yourself a bit of a “lone wolf” – is when people you thought were friends fade into obscurity. Depression being such a solitary thing, you become a hermit, licking the wounds on your heart, mind and soul, and though you may withdraw, there is a difference between giving a friend space and not being around at all.
I’d always been the jester of any of my social circles – from high school where I got along with any group I drifted through, all the way through to my adult life. The funny guy; the loud guy; always the first to make snide remarks or poke fun at things I probably shouldn’t have; all for a laugh. So I had this kind of image, there was an expectation of who I should be in social situations. So when I withdrew and no longer felt like laughing or making others laugh, socially it was seppuku.
I had my partner, but we hadn’t been with each other long enough for me to have any hope she would put up with me in the state I was in (lucky for me close to a decade later she still is), but it’s different not having those friends around when you’re going through the hardest time of your life. And it’s even more difficult when you finally emerge out of that hole you’ve spent most of your twenties in; you lose more friends in the process because you no longer live up to the former “you” they knew.
Also on The Big Smoke
- What a difference a year made for my mental health
- Study charting teen mental health in the social media age
So to those people, excuse me, I’m so sorry that I spent my formative years trying to keep my head above water, unable to hold down a job due to crippling social anxiety and not being able to get myself out of bed until midday every day, and I’m sorry that it affects you so much now that I’m working on myself, spending time meditating and catching up on self-care. Apologies that my depression changed me and I would rather sit at home and read a books now instead of getting drunk and talking shit – just because I can go outside without my heart beating out of my chest, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to throw myself into large groups of people I didn’t see for the six years it took to overcome my darkness.
Actually, fuck apologies. Because I’m different now, and because I spent a lot of time in introspection, rebuilding after my walls came crashing down around me in the most violent way possible, I had time to really see clearly for the first time in my life, and you know what I didn’t see in that time? You.
So don’t think now that I’m “acting more like myself” that you can suddenly appear and expect us to pick up where we left off, before I was an inconvenience, before I became a broken toy you didn’t want to play with, before you would come around to my house and my depression would shout out the window that I couldn’t come out to play today.
That’s not how it works, friend.
If you don’t like the new me, then kindly fuck off, don’t stick around and tell me that you preferred the old me, and don’t call me a narcissist because it took me years to be able to love myself – you don’t know how powerful that is until you’ve spent a long time hating yourself.
And this is where I think the taboo around depression and mental health issues still exists, with people who have never truly experienced (and not knowing a sufferer’s personal experience of it) abandoning those who are going through it out of sheer misunderstanding and a lack of compassion, or a lack of caring enough to understand in order to be a support.
I can count my real friends on one hand and have fingers spare, because I chose to become a better version of myself. That’s the truth about depression I feel we gloss over, because we’re afraid of losing whomever we think we have, while they continue to think they are great friends.
Well, I’m calling you out, I did it by myself.